Breaking Down Numbers & Complements of Ten

By: Maryrose Gray

One of my favorite parts of being a classroom teacher was building relationships with families. I loved talking with parents and working together to help their children learn and grow. One of the reasons we started Cat & Owl is to continue building relationships with families beyond the classroom. That's why this week I'm going to talk a little bit about the number one concept that parents should work more on at home with their children. In teacher-speak, it is called "composing and decomposing numbers."

Composing and decomposing numbers basically means combining numbers and then breaking them apart. This forms a foundation for operations (addition, subtraction), and it helps children manipulate numbers and begin to see patterns. This leads into another teacher-speak activity called "complements of ten" or understanding all the different ways to make 10 (1+9, 2+8, etc.).  The more parents can work with this concept from an early age, the less students will feel like they are being forced to memorize a million things once they start doing it at school. More about how to do this at home below!

This is one of the top things that elementary teachers say they wished parents did more with their children at home. It is a concept that can not be built overnight because students need time to work with the ideas and observe patterns. Think about how much you read with a child before they are able to read independently. I encourage all parents to try to integrate a little bit of math into story time to make sure you are building early numeracy as well as early literacy (both of which will help your child thrive in school!)

Quick Games to Develop This Concept

Most games that develop this concept fall under the category of Number Sense. Number sense is just that...developing a sense about numbers.  I like to think of it as common sense for numbers.

Probably my favorite game ever, What’s in the Cup?, is a great game for composing and decomposing numbers. You can play this game with any quantity and practically any object (that will fit in the cup, of course!). I recommend to start small with the number 5 and build up to 10 or more.

My husband pulled a super-quick finger counting game out at the airport over the holidays when we were standing in line and the children looked like they wanted to make a run for it. He literally just pretended that he put some of his fingers in his pocket and asked our daughter how many he had left in his pocket and to my surprise she was really open to suspending reality.

Dice War is a fun way to help your child see patterns and develop operational thinking by composing numbers. And a great plus here is that most kids really like dice.

There are so many things on the internet that you can do with your child at home for enrichment that it can be pretty overwhelming.  Our feeling on this is that doing anything is better than doing nothing, so we want to share quick games that are really going to help you build essential math concepts that might otherwise be overlooked.

Happy Playing!